Village Learning Center

Democracy - Community - Pursuit of Happiness

The Village Sudbury School is democratically run by students and staff. Students pursue whatever subjects interest them, in groups or individually, and learn informally along the way -- even as they play.

Top Three Objections to Democratic Schools -- And How To Respond (2 of 3)

"This might be nice for younger children, but high school students need to attend an accredited school in order to be accepted into colleges and universities."

From public school classrooms to political campaigns, we are constantly reminded that a college degree is necessary for success. As early as kindergarten, students repeat phrases about being college-bound. Desks are arranged in groups named after well-known universities. Starting in middle school, class time is frequently dedicated to workshops on college admission requirements.

At first glance, it may seem like a Sudbury education would rule-out admission to lots of universities. That's just not the case. It's important to keep in mind that most universities have multiple paths to admission. The University of California, for example, requires a grade of C or better on specific "A-G" required classes, a minimum GPA of 3.0, and minimum SAT/ACT scores. However, students who do not meet these requirements can still be admitted based on qualifying SAT or ACT scores. As with most universities, the UC system also makes exceptions to admit students from non-traditional backgrounds, such as those who have been home-schooled and have no transcripts.

In response to concerns about Sudbury students' access to higher education, Sudbury Valley School co-founder Mimsy Sadofsky wrote:

Kids who leave here are usually extremely well-prepared to go to college. First of all, they're quite knowledgeable, and they're very articulate. If you want to go to a college for which you need SAT scores (which certainly is not every college at all) then that's one of the things you're motivated to do, and you apply yourself to learning how to do well on the SATs... Colleges are not as different from Sudbury Valley, I think, as high schools are, because you're expected to have a lot more autonomy and a lot more responsibility for doing what you need to do in college than you have in most high schools.

As leaders in business and government increasingly stress the need for a workforce and citizenry with "21st Century skills," students with exceptional admissions letters and higher than average world experience have a leg-up in the college admission process. There's a lot more than anecdotal evidence to back this up. According to studies of Sudbury Valley School graduates 20 years ago, and a survey of Circle School graduates earlier this year, students from Sudbury schools attend and graduate from college at higher than average rates. Sudbury grads rank about twice the national average in terms of self-employment. The next time somebody raises this objection to the Sudbury model, you can help educate him or her.